Inevitably, it is possible to raise concerns about the report. For instance, have the authors given enough attention to the uncertainties that exist within climate science? Secondly, how reliable are the estimates of climate change damage costs? (answer: not very reliable, but probably as reliable as we can make them).
Personally, I am generally supportive of the report's findings; they seem broadly in tune with my understanding of the literature on climate change economics. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that, as you are reading this, small teams of corporate funded climate change skeptics will be frantically reading the report, doing their best to pick holes in it, often with questionable objectivity. Such is the nature of the debate on climate change.
No doubt, in due course, these skeptics will be given radio and TV airtime and newspaper column inches as they do their best to persuade us that there is no scientific consensus on climate change. The more respectable parts of the media do their best to provide a balanced argument. If they mention the Stern report's findings, they feel they should also provide the counter arguments and give some mention of the anti-climate change position. But what if 99% of scientists believe in climate change and only 1% have doubts? In these circumstances a 'balanced' debate, in which both sides of the argument are given equal attention, could be very misleading. It seems this is the situation in which the climate change debate now finds itself (although I'm not claiming the 99:1 ratio is accurate). I'm certainly not advocating censorship but I do feel the skeptics receive a disproportionate amount of airtime and column inches.
However, I will now fuel this imbalance by referring to a critique of the first three papers prepared within the Stern review. The critique can be read here. An interesting read, but is it representative of a wider viewpoint or merely representing a minority position?
Incidentally, it is interesting to note that one of the authors of this critique is Ross McKitrick. He appears to be a passionate climate change skeptic and, along with Stephen McIntyre, questioned the existence of the 'hockey stick' graph which shows a dramatic increase in global mean temperature in recent centuries. Indeed, in the Stern critique above, the authors refer to the hockey-stick evidence as 'flawed'. Yet in response to the debate surrounding the hockey stick graph, the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) conducted a review of the science behind the relationship. Specifically, they assessed the robustness of the work of Michael Mann et al. who published the key research on the hockey stick.
"We roughly agree with the substance of their findings"
was the conclusion of the Chair of the NAS review, although questionmarks were raised over some of Mann et al's temperature estimates for the period between 900 and 1600. The article in Nature discussing the NAS's findings can be read here
If those of us who do work relating to climate change are confused, how is the man or woman on the street meant to know which viewpoints belong to the consensus and which belong to a vocal minority? They have no chance.